Agents of SHIELD Season 4 Episode 19: All the Madame’s Men Recap


This week, HYDRA memorializes fallen hero John Garrett, mentor and corrupter of Grant Ward in the real world, played by the late Bill Paxton. Our dear Madame HYDRA also falls, in a spectacular callback to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty. However, despite the episode title, she prefers to be put back together again by science, rather than her men.

We begin with Sunil Bakshi’s show-within-the-show, The Bakshi Report. Bakshi, who was Daniel Whitehall’s righthand man in the real world, is now Ophelia and Fitz’s mouthpiece and lackey. The topic of this episode is “Justice,” or, more specifically, the death of the Patriot. Bakshi cautions Constant Vigilance, because the Patriot wasn’t the only evil enemy of the state that could be lurking around any corner.

Meanwhile, back at the Triskelion, Daisy is beginning to stir within her terrigenesis husk. She breaks out just as she and May are discovered. They fall into familiar patterns as they begin to take out the HYDRA goons.

May and Skye fight their way through the cube office room of evil, and May gets a matrix worthy flip and shoot. Ming-Na Wen clearly executed this stunt herself. As a woman who’s two years older than her, who can barely stand up off the couch some days, I’m so glad she exists in the world to represent 50-something women! This show should be celebrated for its limited ageism as much as for its racial diversity and gender equality.

When they reach the corridor and are about to dash into the elevator, Madame HYDRA makes a fabulous dramatic entrance from /he elevator instead. She goes straight into a villain monologue. She momentarily drops pretense to note that the agents are all reverting back to type despite their Framework programming, but she ignores Daisy completely during her speech. She doesn’t seem to know that Daisy has her powers back. Interesting. Did May disable surveillance equipment, or is Aida that distracted? Or, is that a convenient plot hole?

Daisy quakes Ophelia and sends her smashing backwards down the corridor and through the glass of the Triskelion elevator. I have a thing for that elevator and Steve Rogers; any sight of it makes me happy. Ophelia doesn’t have a shield to land on, so she lays there on the concrete, severely injured. Daisy and May look down at her through the broken glass, then take off for the Triskelion parking garage. This entire sequence has some nice looking visuals for a show that undoubtedly has a small budget.

In the real world, Aida unplugs herself from the Framework. LMD Ivanov says he didn’t think it was possible for her to be on edge. She says she’s not, she’s just recalibrating after a setback. They stand in front of the remaining four captives who are still alive in the Framework: Fitz, Mack, Coulson, and May. Agnes, Mace and Radcliffe are dead, so their berths are empty. Three dead, four alive, even with Aida being programmed to keep them all alive as her first, unbreakable priority. (Agnes is dead even within the Framework.) Not great odds.

Aida goes on to explain that May has begun to rebel against the Framework programming. LMD Ivanov decides to uncomplicate things by shooting May’s body, but finds that he’s unable to pull the trigger. Because he was built by Aida, he has the same programming restrictions that she does. He can’t kill humans. Unless he and Aida find a loophole, like a human who is a direct threat to the Framework, for example. Daisy and Jemma are trying to do just that, so Aida tells Ivanov to find them, so that they can kill them.

Daisy and May make their way through the city toward the Resistance rendezvous point. When Daisy asks why May helped her, May reveals that the Patriot is dead. Daisy is shaken, and more resolved than ever to get everyone else out of the Framework. Jemma is growing more impatient than ever, as she and Coulson watch the Resistance fall apart around them without Mace’s leadership to guide them.

Ophelia’s doctors give Fitz and Alistair a run down of her prognosis as she lies in bed, gravely injured and unconscious. Alistair reminds Fitz that he’s the new head of HYDRA, and it’s important that he lead the people now, using HYDRA’s preferred methods of intimidation and fear. Fitz meets with Bakshi to tell him that inhumans, the ever-present threat, perpetrated the attack on Madame HYDRA. Bakshi offers ways to use his show to calm the public, but that’s not what Fitz wants. A moment later, we see Bakshi on the air identifying Skye and May as dangerous terrorists and asking that citizens report any sighting immediately.


Grant sees the broadcast and becomes even more angry. If Skye is found by HYDRA she’ll likely be murdered on the spot. Mack tells Ward not to say things like that in front of Hope. Ward says, “Like it or not, this is the reality we live in.” It’s a fantastic line with layered meanings. But also, Mack has Hope in a Resistance base, after they were almost arrested two different times within a day or two. I think she knows what her world is like. Hiding the truth from her will just make her more likely to get herself and others killed. There’s no childhood innocence in a world where people are dying in the streets. Adults just like to fool themselves that they can protect kids that way, because it makes the adults feel better.

Ward goes to tell Coulson that he’s gathering a team to search for Skye. Coulson is in the director’s office. He argues that Skye can take care of herself, and the team would have no idea where to even begin looking. Ward can’t sit and do nothing while Skye’s in danger, so he argues back that Coulson’s a school teacher, not a trained agent. Coulson whips off his glasses, pulls out a hankie, and goes into Phil Coulson patented wisdom sharing mode. He says that he may not be an agent, but once upon a time, someone thought he could be. He said no, because he was afraid, and it seemed like too much responsibility. He asks Grant not to let fear cloud his judgement now.

Grant shares his own story. He was serving time for Arson, 1st Degree when someone came to him. Coulson asks what HIS name was. Grant says that SHE would laugh that he assumed it was a man. It was Victoria Hand, who was killed by Ward in the real world to rescue Garret from being imprisoned in the Fridge. She was the first person to believe that he could be a good man. Skye was the one who made him believe it. He won’t abandon Skye. Coulson realizes that he isn’t going to change Grant’s mind, so he just asks him to try not to get killed. Coulson’s been holding onto a SHIELD badge throughout the conversation.

Daisy and May decide they need to steal a car to get to the rendezvous point a little more quickly. As they approach the car, they see a blonde woman staring at them. Daisy wonders if she’s racist, the first acknowledgement of the racism these two women would face in a while (since Jiaying’s storyline in season 2?), but May sees a billboard identifying them as terrorists and realizes that she was afraid of them.

May and Skye arrive at the Resistance rendezvous point. They were followed, and end up in a firefight. They hide out inside a building with the wounded Resistance fighter who met them at the door.

Trip shows Simmons the designs that he photographed with his grandfather’s spy camera. She realizes that Aida’s building a powerful machine that can pull elements from thin air, similar to something Eli Morrow was using earlier in the season, and that she’s working with Ivanov. She and Trip decide to take a quinjet on a recon mission to the spot where the machine is likely being built.

Burrows gets the call that there’s a disturbance at the rendezvous point. Without Mace to tell him what to do, he’s lost. Coulson steps up, and they decide to take the HYDRA bus to check on the situation.

While they wait for help, May admits to Skye that she ordered the airstrike that killed Mace. Skye tries to give May some reasoning that will help her deal with her guilt later. The team arrives to help, but Mack won’t trust May. He holds a gun on her and jeopardizes the rescue. Coulson talks him down, and they escape through a convenient prohibition-era tunnel.

As they wait by Ophelia’s bedside, Alistair tells Fitz that they are close to finding Skye and May. Fitz says he’ll monitor the situation personally. Ophelia wakes up and grabs his arm, stopping him from leaving. She tells him to finish his design for the Project Looking Glass machine instead, because once she can use that, the body she’s in now won’t matter any more. Fitz goes to work on his design, while his father says that he’ll focus on the traitors.

Trip and Simmons arrive at the oil rig in the Baltic that’s Aida’s current base of operations in the real world. It’s empty in the Framework, but Simmons realizes the connection. She explains Aida’s evil plans for the machine to Trip. The Project Looking Glass machine will generate a real, living, flesh and blood human body for Aida, allowing her to circumvent her programming. Trip is confused, but supportive. He’s about a million times more useful than Mack, who just gets confused and stubbornly refuses to budge. Even Burrows was smart enough to take his dilemma to a grown up, and he’s little more than Mace’s brief case-carrying accessory. Why can’t we have Trip back?

Alistair interupts Fitz at work on his design to give him a report on the search for the fugitives. Fitz is violently angry when he hears of their continued failure. Alistair threatens Fitz physically if he doesn’t get himself under control, causing Fitz to take a step back in fear. When they are done with their conversation, Fitz tells his father that he can’t tolerate weakness or failure, just as his father taught him. Even from his father.

The team arrives back at the base, where Ward meets them. He and Skye talk, and he realizes that she wants to leave the Framework, and him, just like Jemma. He’s deeply hurt, but accepts that he’s lost her and walks away.

Alistair questions Radcliffe about May and Skye. Radcliffe accidentally reveals that he could hear them through the air vent, but says he had nothing to do with their plans. Alistair tells Radcliffe that he knows Radcliffe is from the other world and is dead there. Radcliffe taunts Alistair back, telling him that the other world is the real world, and in that world he’s a drunk who’s too stupid to recognize Fitz’s genius. In this world Alistair is nothing but a bit of slightly altered code. Alistair retaliates by viciously beating Radcliffe.

Ward, Coulson and May watch May’s body cam footage of the building collapse. May says she knows releasing it won’t make up for the Patriot’s death, but it’s a start. Daisy comes in and says that there’s a place they can go to that would solve all of their problems with HYDRA. Radcliffe gave her the coordinates. Ward and May are very confused, and feel that the film is more important. Coulson understands that Daisy’s referring to Radcliffe’s backdoor out of the Framework, but thinks that they need a distraction in order to slip past HYDRA. He suggests that in order to save themselves, they need to save the world.

Bakshi is pressuring one of his female staffers into “dating” him. He tells her that he’ll take her furniture shopping if she needs to go (Trump reference alert). Just then, Coulson and the Resistance team bust into the studio. Coulson, looking all everyman heroic, says, “Heard you were looking for some enemies of the state.”

Bakshi assumes that they’re there to force him into broadcasting their propaganda, and starts blustering on about how brave and unmoveable he is, until Daisy quakes him a tiny bit, and he caves spectacularly. She tells him thatthey don’t need him anyway, the facts speak for themselves.

Fitz kneels at Ophelia’s bedside to tell her that he’s finished the design for the Project Looking Glass machine. Though he’s had his doubts about the project, he understands it now. Her new body will be stronger, as she was meant to be. He just has one request. He wants her to take him with her. Ophelia hoped he’d say that.

Alistair reports to Fitz that Radcliffe refused to talk, but did slip up once. Alistair has proof that Radcliffe conspired with Daisy. However, Radcliffe is also prepared to die. Fitz replies that he will just have to give Radcliffe a reason to live.

May helps Coulson get ready to go on the air. They share a supportive, almost romantic moment.

Ward finds Daisy unsuccessfully trying to lock HYDRA out of the station’s system so that they can’t cut off SHIELD’s message. He says he’ll stay behind to make sure the entire broadcast airs. He knows he’s not going with them when they leave, and he doesn’t want her to think that he’s anything like the other Grant. He asks if his counterpart is in prison. She indicates that Grant is dead. He’s still accepting of everything, and mostly focussed on the mission, but he does want to know one thing: After she’s gone, will he get his version of Skye back? He looks heartbroken as he asks her. Daisy doesn’t know. She tells Grant that she didn’t understand her Grant until she met him, and that she realizes now that there was some good in real world Grant all along. (His loyalty, love and devotion were always real. Truly being given that back in return earlier in his life was the change that he needed to become a decent human being.)


Coulson and May come into the control room to tell Daisy and Ward that they’re ready. Coulson sees Ward’s gun and realizes what he has planned. He tells Ward that the Patriot would have been proud. May and Ward give each other a meaningful nod, which is nice to see, given how much they worked together early in the series. Daisy and Grant wish each other luck and look really, really sad. Skyeward fans cry all over again.

Coulson’s broadcast begins. As May’s footage plays, he speaks over it:

“Good evening.

As you all know, a HYDRA facility was destroyed yesterday. HYDRA told you that it was an act of terrorism. They told you an Inhuman named the Patriot murdered civilians. What they told you was a lie. We’re gonna show you what really happened.

This footage was taken from the bodycam of a high-level HYDRA operative. HYDRA used this “Enlightenment Center” to brainwash anyone who dared question them. Jeffrey Mace saved these people, but HYDRA was willing to kill them just to maintain their lie.

Once you see this footage, the truth is undeniable. HYDRA doesn’t think we’re smart enough to know when we’re being fed “alternative facts” to keep us afraid. To keep them in power.

Remember: there are more of us then there are of them, and now that we know the truth, we have a choice to make. We all have the opportunity to be Patriots. Will you take a stand? Are you going to hold them accountable?

Throughout history, we have seen empires rise and fall. Even benevolent leaders shouldn’t have absolute power, and HYDRA was corrupt from the start. They were founded by the Nazis…

A wise man once told me that a person can do anything once they realize they’re a part of something bigger. It’s taken me a while to understand that. For years, I was just a face in the crowd, a history teacher who spread HYDRA’s lies. They seemed too imposing for any one person to fight. But now I’m choosing to stand up, to become a part of something bigger. I really do believe that together, we can accomplish anything. Because the truth is I’m not just a history teacher. My name is Phil Coulson and I’m an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Burrows runs into the control room mid-broadcast, to tell Grant that the station is surrounded by a mob. It turns out that the crowd is there in support of the Resistance, ready to join the fight.

LMD Ivanov paces around the Project Looking Glass machine, drinking his favorite vodka with onion, but it’s unsatisfying due to his limited LMD palate. Aida comes in to assure him that the machine is almost finished, and they’ll be serial killers before they know it. He shares that his men have found Daisy and Jemma’s quinjet. and have orders to shoot it down as soon as they can get a lock on it.


Messages from the crawling banner on the Bakshi Report:

Berkeley linguistics student has been arrested for harboring an inhuman refugee in her dorm room…

 Next week in Washington, DC … which commemorates the life and legacy of American Hero John Garrett…

A new biography of Daniel Whitehall examines his close relationship with the Malick family…

 Sanctions have been …

New Inhuman “Stop & Screen” program declared a major success after Hydra reports record number of incarcerations…

 A UC Berkeley linguistics student …

… memorial will be unveiled which commemorates …

The Bakshi Report’s control room also shows several screens with a title card reading: “In memoriam: John Garret.”

The wise man Coulson quoted was Nick Fury. In season 1 episode 22, Beginning of the End, John Garret jokes (at least I think it was a joke?) that he joined HYDRA, and tried to dominate the world, because he misunderstood this quote. Coulson assures Fury that he understood the correct meaning. It’s another subtle homage to Bill Paxton. Beginning of the End is also the episode in which Coulson kills Garret. Fury must have been the one who tried to recruit Coulson into SHIELD within the Framework.

Coulson brings up HYDRA’s use of alternative facts- 2nd Trump reference alert of the episode.

I would think that Aida allowed herself to be injured in order to increase Fitz’s dedication to Project Looking Glass, but I can’t think of any reason why she’d lie to Ivanov and tell him that she’d experienced a set back when she was injured, if that was the case. She must not be able to tamper much with the code inside the Framework, if she can’t even heal her own injuries.

Ward and Fitz have switched places because Victoria Hand got Ward out of prison instead of John Garret, and Fitz was raised by his father instead of his mother. They are both still essentially the same people as ever. Fitz is intelligent, loyal, intense, and devoted to his lover, his work, and pure science. Ward is angry, impulsive, guarded, a risk-taker, and loyal to a few select people and the cause they introduced him to. Changing the most influential person in each of their lives put each of them on the other side of the good/evil line.

But Grant Ward and Leopold Fitz would both do anything for the people they love. If their loved ones need them to become warped villains, then that’s what they’ll do. If they need to become superheroes, then they’ll find a way to do the impossible to save people.

Just as Jeffrey Mace fully embraced the life that the Framework gave him, Phil Coulson fully rejects it, publicly and privately taking back his real life persona as the director and moral compass of SHIELD. As predicted, exposure to Coulson does snap May out of the Framework scenario, and she rejects HYDRA as well. May is a special case of her own, though, because, while her regret was fixed, the Darkhold and Aida also used it to manipulate the Framework into a HYDRA controlled world by having the inhuman girl who May spared in Bahrain go on to perpetrate the Cambridge Incident. May learned that, if anything, she needed to be more of a warrior, just as the Darkhold/Aida planned. She also learned that she needs to judge situations very carefully, which ultimately led her to break free of the Framework’s programming. So, in a sense May and Coulson are also success stories for Radcliffe, because allowing them both to work through their “What if…?” scenarios has given them more confidence and wisdom, even if they rejected the fixed reality. That leaves Mack and Fitz, who will likely end up emotional disasters if they both survive the Framework.